In the UEFA Zone – the continental union for Europe – 55 (or 54 if Russia is excluded) countries will participate in the World Cup qualifiers. Sixteen of these countries wil qualify for the final round: the 2026 World Cup in North America with a total of 48 national teams participating. The groups and the schedule of the qualification series of the UEFA countries for the World Cup, with all matches, dates, and times, will be listed here as soon as they are known. See also: Draw qualification World Cup 2026.
Qualification UEFA for World Cup 2026 | Qualifiers Europe
On January 25, 2023, UEFA announced the following.
The European qualification for the World Cup (and the European Championships) Football will change slightly, as of September 2024. There will be a new, more compact format with more pools consisting of fewer teams than before. In concrete terms, this means that the European qualification series for the FIFA World Cup will consist of twelve groups of four or five teams. This makes the competition more dynamic and less predictable. The format of pools with a double round-robin schedule remains.
12 UEFA countries qualify directly, 16 advance to the play-offs
The twelve group winners of the qualifying groups in Europe qualify directly for the 2026 World Cup. The twelve runners-up participate in the UEFA play-off matches. In these European play-offs, they will be joined by the four best-ranked group winners from the UEFA Nations League (2024-2025), excluding the teams which ended first or second in their World Cup qualifying group.
European play-offs: 4 remaining tickets
In the European play-offs, sixteen teams will fight for the four remaining World Cup football 2026 entrance tickets. They will be subdivided into four paths with four nations each. In each play-off path, there is a format of two mutual semi-finals, leading to four play-off finals in total. Each of these final play-off encounters consists of a single match. The four winners of the four play-off finals will join the other twelve UEFA nations which qualify directly, as group winners of the UEFA qualifying series.
The qualification series in the FIFA zone UEFA for the World Cup in 2026 will start 17-25 March, 2025. The World Football Association and the European Football Association are still deciding on the definitive dates and schedule. However, the following is already known. Countries that end up in a group of five during the draw for World Cup qualification will play their first matches in March (17-25) 2025 or in June (2-10) 2025 (depending on their position in the UEFA Nations League of the 2024-2025 season). Countries drawn in a group of four will start the European qualification for the 2026 World Cup in September (1-9) 2025. Matchdays are 17-25 March 2025, 2-10 June 2025, 1-9 September 2025, 6-14 October 2025, and 10-18 November 2025. The play-offs are scheduled 23-31 March, 2026.
No European participant in the intercontinental play-offs
In the qualifying zone of Europe, 55 countries compete for sixteen tickets for the World Cup in North America. These sixteen countries qualify directly from the UEFA qualifying rounds – either the regular rounds or via de play-offs. Unlike in the other FIFA qualification zones, there is no ticket to be earned in Europe for the intercontinental World Cup qualification play-offs.
The exact dates of the World Cup qualifying series in Zone UEFA are still subject to final decisions. The schedule also depends on the qualifying matches for the 2024 European Championship and the UEFA Nations League schedule.
It is known that a total of sixteen countries from this football continent earn a direct World Cup ticket through several qualifying groups. Some of the teams will qualify through rematches in the European play-offs. For the countries from Europe, however, there is no longer a resit via the intercontinental play-offs. In there, only countries from the other FIFA continents will play for the final two World Cup football tickets.
With sixteen participants in the 2026 FIFA World Cup in North America, Europe is already the most strongly represented. At the previous World Cup, in 2022 in Qatar, Europe supplied thirteen countries. The increase from thirteen to sixteen European countries at the World Cup is the result of the larger number of upcoming participating nations: 48.
UEFA qualification for World Cup football
Intercontinental play-offs without UEFA national teams
A total of six national football teams, spread around the world, will have a second chance in the intercontinental FIFA World Cup 2026 qualifying play-offs after the qualification phase on their own continent. There is no place for a UEFA country in that. The six countries participating in that mini-tournament are divided as follows. AFC (Asia), CAF (Africa), OFC (Oceania) and CONMEBOL (South America) each receive one starting ticket. From CONCACAF (North America, Central America, and the Caribbean), two nations will qualify for these intercontinental 2026 World Cup play-offs. The reason for this is that CONCACAF will host the World Cup finals, in North America. The six countries compete for the last two (of 48) tickets that entitle them to participate in the World Cup in the three countries USA, Canada and Mexico.
Countries qualifying for the 2026 World Cup from UEFA, CAF, CONCACAF, AFC, OFC and CONMEBOL
Sixteen countries qualify for the World Cup from the FIFA UEFA Zone. The total number of countries during the final round in 2026 is 48. This number is made up as follows.
|FIFA ZONE||QUALIFY FOR WORLD CUP FOOTBALL 2026 | AVAILABLE SLOTS FIFA CONTINENTS|
|AFC||Minimum 8, maximum 9 countries (possible +1 via intercontinental play-offs)|
|CONCACAF||Minimum 6, maximum 8 countries (possible +2 via intercontinental play-offs)|
Host countries USA, Canada and Mexico are already automatically qualified
|CONMEBOL||Minimum 6, maximum 7 countries (possible +1 via intercontinental play-offs)|
|OFC||Minimum 1, maximum 2 countries (possible +1 via intercontinental play-offs)|
|CAF||Minimum 9, maximum 10 countries (possible +1 via intercontinental play-offs)|
These are the 55 UEFA nations participating in the qualification for the 2026 World Cup
The following nations are from the FIFA Zone of the European Football Association. For the previous World Cup in 2022 in Qatar, thirteen countries from this UEFA continent managed to qualify. Namely Belgium (which finished in the first round at the previous World Cup), Croatia (semi-final / winner match for third place), Denmark (first round), England (quarter-finals), France (losing finalist), Germany (first round), Netherlands (quarter-finals), Poland (eighth-finals), Portugal (quarter-finals), Serbia (first round), Spain (eighth-finals), Switzerland (eighth-finals) and Wales (first round).
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Faroe Islands
- North Macedonia
- Northern Ireland
- Republic of Ireland
- Russia (possibly suspended)
- San Marino
See also: the positions of the UEFA teams in the FIFA Ranking.
Draw qualification 2026 World Cup in the UEFA zone
Which countries play against each other in the World Cup qualification on the football continent of Europe? This mainly depends on the draw for the group stage. Besides the final group results, performance in the UEFA Nations League will also count towards participation in the European play-offs. The date of the draw of the Preliminaries in the UEFA Zone is still unknown. See also: Preliminary Draw World Cup Football.
The information on this page is based on the official information from the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA), current and subject to changes.